LONDON - Cantab Pharmaceuticals plc, of Cambridge, U.K., released results for the year ending December 1997 which showed revenues more than double at £7.7 million compared with £3.1 million for 1996.

While expenditure rose from £8.9 million to £13.7 million as the research and development portfolio was expanded, the cash pile also grew - by £5.8 million, from £37.1 million to £42.9 million. The company reported a loss of £3.2 million, compared with £4.5 million the year before.

The share price fell 5 pence to £7.27 on the results.

“The results really are very good,“ said Jurek Sikorski, CEO of Cantab. “They show we are in a strong position financially and can fund and expand our R&D program.“

Cantab, which specializes in antivirals, showed significant growth last year.

“We continued to validate our innovative platform technologies through collaborations with premiere partners such as Glaxo Wellcome, a world leader in the antiviral drug market, and Kaketsuken, Japan's leader in human and animal vaccines,“ Sikorski told BioWorld International.

In March, Glaxo Wellcome plc, of London, signed a license for DISC HSV genital herpes vaccine, paying £5 million up front and £2.5 million in contract development fees. The remainder of 1997's revenues came from an initial fee from Kaketsuken, of Kumamoto, Japan, for a DISC VZV, chicken pox and shingles research program, and from fees paid by Pfizer Inc., of New York, under the DISC veterinary vaccine program.

Cantab's most advanced product is TA-GW, a vaccine for genital warts, which is being developed by London-based SmithKline Beecham plc. Cantab had advanced the vaccine to Phase IIa before it was licensed in 1996, but SmithKline has reformulated the product with its proprietary SBAS2 adjuvant. During the fourth quarter Phase I studies of the new formulation were completed, and a Phase II dose-ranging study will commence in the first quarter of 1998.

Sikorski said it was too early to say whether the reformulated vaccine shows improved immunogenicity.

Phase I trials of DISC HSV, a herpes virus in which the gene essential replication has been deleted or inactivated, are expected to finish in the second half of 1998. Initial analyses showed the vaccine was immunogenic at all doses tested, with the best responses in seronegative subjects, who had no previous exposure to the virus.

Cantab also is developing DISC HSV as a vector for anticancer genes, and as a vector for use in gene therapy of central nervous system disorders. The company says it has achieved strong transfection levels in a number of tumor types in preclinical studies, and aims to identify an initial cancer target in the first half of 1998.

Sikorski said it was too early to speak in terms of a target for the neurological disease program.

“All central nervous system diseases are up for grabs,“ Sikorski said. “We are working in collaboration with Cambridge University, and have licensed-in technology which enables HSV-driven long-term gene expression in nerve cells. We have demonstrated that the vector can infect neuronal cells and does not kill them, and we have achieved gene expression lasting up to six months in mice given a single injection. These experiments are very encouraging.“ *